615.419.3604 hilary@activeyoga.com

What Does “Move Energy” Mean in Your Yoga Class?

Energy is shrouded in mystery because we can’t see it. What we see and feel as the materialization of energy can be confusing as well.  Yoga is sometimes described as a method to manage energy. That refers to the energy of thought and intention. The means to that is physical energy because physical gives bodily sensation to something intangible. In yoga we create the sensation of energy by giving it weight. We contract muscles to create force. We synchronize the restriction and release of the muscles in coordination with the breath.  The first weight is made by the windpipe.  The breath becomes sensational and intimate as you orchestrate the narrowing of the windpipe to hear breath and feel it in a pleasing way.   There are also muscle groups that act as sphincters or round muscles. The constriction of those sphincters is sometimes referred to as bandhas.   Bandhas turn on as we create force along the spine, pelvis and shoulders by engaging the muscles of the limbs, buttocks and belly with precision to ignite our posture. The effort of the muscles will have varying effects on our spine depending on the pose. We are not just moving muscles and bones but corralling energy to become form.   Asana is the intensification of awareness. When that awareness dissipates we can escalate the movement of energy by tweaking the posture. We are moving energy. A finished posture is the eye of the storm. Force formed a shape to contain the quiet. Then energy no longer needed weight. You became the sum of that energy for the moment until something shifted...

The Cure is in the Poison

I’ve been hurt by yoga. Poses. Done wrong Imposed upon me By someone else Or me I didn’t go near them again. Not those anyway. But then I did. After a while. And I did them differently like tasting poison that could only kill me if I drank too much or too quickly. And I approached the poses like a frightened animal. Entered the poses remembering the first time and every way I knew they hurt me and I used them to put myself back together the way I was meant to be. Now that I...

Rest the Meat: Experience in Yoga

  I love cooking shows even when they cook meat.  Cooks have a description called resting the meat which stays with me because I’m horrified by the image of eating blood. You let the cooked meat sit before cutting into it so the juices rest back to the flesh. I don’t mind being horrified as much as I enjoy the delights of seasoning, menus and presentation.   I recalled the latest cooking demo as I lead a group of students into a rest between poses one day. I marked a vigorous floor sequence and lay on the floor with them to visualize their rest. I pictured one meat image and then another. I recalled the description falling off the bone to describe tender meat and then the phrase “rest the meat”.   I asked forgiveness for sharing those images but getting real, we are flesh and bone and so…..It was not hard to feel the blood settle in resting flesh that had been squeezed and stretched. With time the bones were liberated toward the floor.   Shocking images wake us up. It’s a bit excessive to relate a subtle inquiry to the body of a butchered and cooked animal but it worked. Hope this works for...

In Yoga Two is One Alone

  Unintentionally there is a disservice in yoga classes. After a student does a pose on one side, that side becomes a standard for the second. I tell my students that expecting one limb to behave like the one on the other side is like telling your kid he should have gotten an A because his brother got one.   Students are taught as if there is a correct way to do a pose but the way offered is that of a factory made doll. We start with the picture of absolute symmetry because it is neutral but in fact that is only a baseline as we are all built differently. Even the relationship of bone lengths differ person to person. And then most of us have experienced injuries that changed relationships again.   Students notice that one side performs or behaves differently than the other. The awareness is less a problem than the work ethic of expecting the other side to be equivalent. When you are on the second arm or leg or the second side of a pose, treat it as if it is not the second but the first. You are still using the same guidelines, going in the same direction. But once differences have been established, by clearing the confusion of comparison your first second side will have a chance to shine.   You are cultivating awareness with discernment which is both sophisticated and subtle.  It takes patience. This is something that comes with experience. Keep going. The journey is often tedious and even boring at times but the rewards come and they are great....

Yoga, Hammer and Nail and Threads of Thought

  I’m covering an Iyengar class. As a longtime student of the Iyengar system I am aware of a couple of pitfalls so I take the opportunity as the visiting teacher to offer thoughts and a technique useful in my personal practice.   Tension is not a negative word. Tension creates integrity. Tension is a negative when it is extraneous.   Think of your practice as a carpenter hammering a nail into wood. Once nailed, there is no reason to keep hammering. Step back and appreciate what you’ve created. Consider it.   Give up 20 percent of the effort and notice you are still in the pose. Perhaps you can keep letting go of effort to 50 percent and hold the pose. Think of the form resembling a suspension bridge.   Physical yoga is the application of desire mixed with effort, and then the reflection of that effort’s effect finished with the facility to know when to surrender to what you can and cannot comfortably do. And know that your experience today will likely change the next time. Patience in yoga is not just a virtue but essential....

Are Your Relationships Working? The Body of One is the Body of All.

  Hatha yoga, is the physical experience of relationship.  It is the relationship of bone to bone, bone to breath, breath to muscle, muscle to muscle, fiber to fiber and cell to cell. Stretching doesn’t make muscles longer as much as it makes relationships between fibers and cells become efficient. Stretching wakes us up.   When posture is pleasurable it’s likely we’ve found the right path. It is an indirect path. The map is provided by a teacher but not all vehicles are suited to drive the same way on the same path. We learn by trial and error. Some of it is obvious and some more subtle. The more refined the mind, the more refined the yoga practice which results in greater awareness of the unseen. One thing is for sure. If there is pain, sorrow or anger, the relationship is off. And that bad relationship takes its toll on parts that had no part in creating the problem.   When there is discomfort in a relationship it’s helpful to look at the forces individually. Work unilaterally in the pose as you would look at your own part in an argument. Maybe look and feel how one group as one side is different than the other.  Then take measures to make the best “deal” for each side.   Perhaps you guessed that I’ve got the contentious governing body on my mind. The incoming is trying to make the best deal for one group. Healthcare and tax reform are big topics. The filter of my yoga mind sees we the people and the people of the world as one...